Training for Performance
I have been a trainer for over a decade now and have seen many trends and training philosophies come and go. I know the right approach to training varies from person to person, but training with the goal of improving performance over general health or aesthetics, I find has been a great way to get the best results out of people who have a competitive nature.
More specifically, the training approach I am talking about is directed at people aged 20-50 who are active gym goers, play sport (or want to play occasionally), or were competitive in school sports and feel they are missing something by following the ‘average’ gym program (i.e. turning up, doing some weights and cardio with no real direction besides chasing aesthetics).
In my conversations with people around the gym, some talk about how much they miss competition and the sporting arena. Usually due to life commitments and busy schedules, they don’t have time to participate in sport the way they used to and when they do find time to participate, their lack of specific conditioning leaves them with flawed performance, missing sports specific fitness and dexterity which can lead to injury. This can then lead to people thinking they are “too old” to do what they once could. But what if I told you that you could have all 3 in the gym; you can compete, train for performance and build a more robust body by following a well-structured program that exposes your body to some of the forces that it may come across in a variety of sports?
I believe training for performance can be condensed into the 4 pillars below:
1. Work Capacity
Work Capacity is defined as having a good enough fitness level to maintain a reasonable physical output for 60 minutes, for example a game of touch with friends or enough of a fitness base to jump in on a surf lesson with your kids for 60-minutes and not have you in a heap panting on the shore after a short period. Of course, there is sport-specific endurance, but that's not what I’m talking about here. Work capacity is probably the easiest thing to train for – 60-minutes on a bike at a heart rate of 50-60% of your max, or a game of basketball should help. Other training throughout the week will help your work capacity too, but we will get to that later.
2. Movement Quality
I hate to use such a cliche saying but “If you don’t use it, you lose it!'. You often see in kids and young teens how well they can move their body carefree on the sporting field and you may be able to remember a time that you could. But luckily it is something you can gain back (dependent on your age and current ability). You definitely won’t be as carefree about your movement as you were as a child playing in the playground, but you can move well enough to rotate well on the golf course, get up off the ground quickly and play the ball, or even jump in on your wife or daughter’s yoga class and not resemble a plank of wood. How do you achieve this level of movement in the gym? Through a variety of movements performed with an emphasis on quality, improved gradually through graded exposure. Mobility exercises and strength movements through full range of motion will help you move better outside the gym. Depending on your current level this can take time, and as mentioned earlier, a well-structured program will ensure you are getting meaningful results.
3. Speed & Ability to Produce Force
The ability to produce force is sometimes referred to as plyometric training. I believe it is important for most people to have some form of plyometric training within their program. A plyometric exercise doesn't have to be absurdly high jumping – It can be as simple as a jog, jumping rope or star jumps for beginners. But if you’re more advanced, you should consider change of direction plyometrics, low amplitude high-repetition plyometrics, and then progressing on to higher intensity plyometrics (if the circumstances are right). This, along with sprinting, is a great way to build speed and produce force into the ground which will improve your athletic performance. The more you can expose yourself to this type of training in a controlled environment, the more robust you will be in the sporting arena. Plyometrics aside, another way to train to produce force is to lift weights in a controlled manner, in order to increase strength while working to a tempo. For most of the people I train under this protocol, this would be something as simple as being able to perform 20 good form push ups, 5-10 chin ups, comfortably squat with a load equivalent to body weight and also deadlift at 1.5 times body weight.
While competing, it is important to remain healthy and injury free. And although this is easier said than done, often just by following a well-rounded performance program can give you the best opportunity to stay healthy, perform well and get the most out of your body.
Also tying back in to pillar 1 (work capacity), being “fit enough” to stay in the activity and not letting fatigue take over and alter your movement patterns helps you avoid injury.
If this style of training is something that may interest you, I have a great program that updates weekly, tracks your progress, and is packaged up in an easy to use training app for $10 a week. Click this link for a week's free trial and you can cancel any time.